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As the beta cycle for watchOS 7.3 has progressed over the course of the past few weeks, we saw evidence of a new ‘Guided Audio Workouts’ feature that could be arriving for Apple’s wearable device, and now that Apple has pushed out the final Release Candidate of watchOS 7.3 to developers we have a better idea of what’s coming.
Since final Release Candidates, or “RC” versions, are intended to be identical to the final versions that go out to the public, they always include the full update notes, which point out the new features and help to spell out exactly what they’re for.
In the case of watchOS 7.3, Apple has actually packed in a couple of new surprises in addition to the usual bug fixes and performance improvements, including a new style of watch face, expanded availability of the ECG app, and of course, the aforementioned Time to Walk feature, which also clears up a bit of the speculation as to what it will actually entail.
‘Unity’ Apple Watch Face
Much like many of Apple’s recent additions, the new “Unity” watch face has a minimalist design that’s more artistic than informative, but it offers a nice twist. Here’s how Apple describes it:
This face is inspired by the colors of the Pan-African Flag. Red represents the blood that unites the people of the African diaspora and was shed for their liberation. Black is for the people whose lives are affirmed by the flag. And green is symbol of the vibrant, natural wealth of Africa, the Motherland. The shapes change as you move creating a face that’s unique to you.
The Unity face has three colour options: Black, Red/Black/Green, and Red/Black/Green/Gold, and offers space for two complications — the date on top and a simple text complication on the bottom.
‘Time to Walk’
When we first heard about the “Time to Walk” feature it wasn’t entirely clear what it was all about, since it was found merely as a reference in the settings for the Apple Watch Workout app that suggested that there would be a way to download workouts of some kind to the Apple Watch for offline use.
Code found in the earlier watchOS 7.3 beta confirmed that these were actual guided audio workouts, which seemed logical as there wouldn’t otherwise be anything that needed to be downloaded to the Apple Watch, and now thanks to the watchOS 7.3 release notes we have a slightly better idea of what these are going to be.
Time to Walk for Apple Fitness+ subscribers—an audio experience in the Workout app where guests share inspiring stories as you walk.
While it will clearly be part of Apple Fitness+, it sounds like these won’t be workout routines per se, but rather stories to give walkers something to listen to when they’re outside. We’re still not sure exactly how this would be any different from simply listening to your favourite podcast, so we’re hoping that Apple will do something a bit more unique, such as integrating audible workout metrics and maybe even “cheers and jeers” for encouragement.
At this point, the setting doesn’t seem to do much, since it will presumably require Time to Walk workouts to be selected from the Fitness+ lineup, and we’re not expecting to see those appear until watchOS 7.3 is actually released to the public.
Other watchOS 7.3 Changes
It looks like watchOS 7.3 will add ECG and irregular heart rhythm notifications to a few new countries as well, with both features coming to Japan, the Philippines, and Thailand, while for whatever reason Mayotte will only get the ECG app, and Taiwan is only getting irregular heart rhythm notifications.
The watchOS 7.3 update also reportedly resolves an issue where Control Center and Notification Center could become unresponsive when Zoom mode is enabled.
The watchOS 7.3 release candidate is currently only available to registered developers, and it’s unclear if it will be available as a public beta, but it’s very likely the wider public release will happen sometime next week, alongside iOS 14.4.